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Perfected Weakness

Perfected Weakness  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Lord has more need of our weakness than of our strength: our strength is often His rival; our weakness, His servant, drawing on His resources, and showing forth His glory. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity; man’s security is Satan’s opportunity. God’s way is not to take His children out of trial, but to give them strength to bear up against it

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Gracious Saviour

Through divine initiative, human alienation from God is turned by him into a state of unmerited acceptance that opens the way for reconciliation and redemptive usefulness.

We are plainly taught how mistaken we are when we set the eminent saints of the olden times upon a platform by themselves, as though they were a class of super-human beings. Because we fall so far short of them, we excuse our indolence by conceiving them to be of a superior nature to ourselves, so that we cannot be expected to attain to their degree of grace. We elevate them upon a niche out of the way, so that they may not rebuke us, thus rendering them a homage which they never sought, and denying them a usefulness which they always coveted. As we never try to fly, because we have no angelic wings; so we do not aspire to supreme holiness, because we imagine that we have not apostolic advantages. Indeed, this is a very injurious idea, and must not be tolerated. What the ancient saints were, we may be. They were men of like passions with ourselves, and therefore are most fit and practical examples for us. The Spirit of God which was in them is in all believers, and he is by no means straitened. Their Saviour is our Saviour; his fulness is the fulness out of which all of us have received. Let us put far away from us every notion of separating the holy men of former days from ourselves, as if they were a saintly caste to be admired at a distance, but not associated with as comrades. They fought the common fight, and won by strength available for all believers; let us esteem them as our brethren, and with them pursue the sacred conflict in the name of the common leader. Let us fix our eyes upon these companions of our warfare, and, regarding them as a sympathetic cloud of witnesses, let us run as they ran, that we may win as they won, and may glorify God in our day and generation, as they did in theirs. Paul, my brethren, doubtless enjoyed more revelations than we have done, but then he had a corresponding thorn in the flesh; he rises above us, but he sinks with us also, and so encourages us to emulate his rising. He was a good man, but he was only a man; he was a saint, but he had the infirmities of sinners; he is our brother Paul, though he be “not a whit behind the very chief of the apostles”; and as we read his experience this morning, I hope we shall be made to feel a fellowship with him, and so be spurred on to imitate him.

Dictionary of Bible Themes 1055 God, grace and mercy of

God, grace and mercy of

The qualities of God’s character by which he shows himself compassionate, accepting, and generous to sinful human beings, shielding them from his wrath, forgiving them, and bestowing on them his righteousness so that they can live and grow in faith and obedience. Grace and mercy are particularly expressed through God’s covenant with his chosen people and through Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the cross.

God’s grace and mercy are made known in Jesus Christ

Jn 1:16-17

The abundance of God’s grace and mercy

Eph 2:4-8 See also 2Sa 24:14 pp 1Ch 21:13; Ps 69:13; 84:11; 102:13; Ro 2:4; 5:17; 9:23; 1Ti 1:14

God’s grace and mercy are always unearned and unmerited

Dt 7:7-8 See also Dt 9:5-6; Eze 36:22; Da 9:18; Ro 9:16; Eph 1:6; 2:8-9; 3:8; Tit 3:5

God’s grace and mercy are a source of blessing

Ge 21:1-2 See also Ge 33:11; 1Sa 2:21

God’s grace and mercy are expressed in the covenant relationship

Jer 31:3 Hebrew “hesed” (translated as “love”, “loving-kindness”, “unfailing love”) expresses specifically the grace and mercy that underlie the covenant relationship. See also Ex 34:6; Dt 7:9,12; Ne 9:17; Ps 6:4; Isa 55:3; La 3:22,32

Salvation comes by grace

Tit 2:11 See also Mk 10:25-27 Jesus Christ’s words to his disciples; Ro 5:15; Eph 1:5-6; 2:8; 2Ti 1:9-10

This is ultimately shown in the cross of Jesus Christ Ro 3:24-25 See also Ro 5:8; Eph 1:7; Heb 2:9; 2Pe 1:10-11

God’s grace and mercy are offered to sinners

Punishment is withheld Ezr 9:13 See also 2Ki 13:22-23; Eze 20:15-17; Hos 11:8; Joel 2:13

Sin is forgiven Mic 7:18; 1Jn 1:9 See also Ps 32:5; Pr 28:13; Isa 55:7; Jer 3:12; 33:8; Da 9:9

Sinners’ prayers are heard Ps 51:1; Lk 18:13-14 See also Ps 6:2-3; 123:3; Hab 3:2

Gods Power

The Acts of the Apostles The Triumphant Return (Acts 4:23–31)

Acts 4:23–31

When they had been released, they came to their own people and they told them all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they had heard the story, with one accord, they lifted up their voice to God and said: ‘O Sovereign Lord, thou who hast made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, thou who didst say, through the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David, our father, thy servant: “Why did the nations rage and the people set their thoughts on empty things?” The kings of the earth stood around and the rulers assembled together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. For in truth in this city they were assembled against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint—Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel—to do all the things which thy hand and thy purpose fore-ordained should be done. So now, O Lord, look upon their threats and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with boldness, whilst thou dost stretch out thy hand to heal and whilst signs and wonders happen through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and kept on speaking the word with boldness.

IN this passage, we have the reaction of the Christian Church in the hour of danger. It might have been thought that, when Peter and John returned with their story, a deep depression would have fallen on the Church as they looked ahead to the troubles which were now bound to descend upon them. The one thing that never even struck them was to obey the Sanhedrin’s command not to speak any more. Into their minds at that moment came certain great convictions, and into their lives came a tide of strength.

(1) They had the conviction of the power of God. With them was the one who was creator and sustainer of all things. Once, the papal envoy threatened the reformer Martin Luther with what would follow if he persisted in his course, and warned him that in the end he would be deserted by all his supporters. ‘Where will you be then?’ demanded the envoy. ‘Then as now,’ Luther answered, ‘in the hands of God.’ For Christians, those who are for us are always more than those who are against us.

(2) They had the conviction of the futility of human rebellion. The word translated as rage is used of the neighing of lively horses. They may trample and toss their heads; in the end, they will have to accept the discipline of the reins. People may make their defiant gestures against God; in the end, God must prevail.

(3) They set before themselves the remembrance of Jesus. They remembered how he suffered and how he triumphed; and in that memory they found their confidence, for it is enough for Jesus’ disciples to be the same as their Lord.

(4) They prayed for courage. They did not pretend that they could face this in their own strength; they turned to a power that was not their own.

(5) The result was the gift of the Spirit. The promise was fulfilled; they were not left comfortless. So they found the courage and the strength they needed to witness when their witness might well mean their death.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary Authority, Divine Authority

All authority could be characterized as either intrinsic or delegated. Intrinsic authority is dominion one exercises because it is innate in that person or inherent in the office held by that person. Because He is God and Creator of the universe, God has sovereignty and dominion over all things. Only the triune God has purely intrinsic authority

Power. Ability to do things, by virtue of strength, skill, resources, or authorization. In the Hebrew of the OT and the Greek of the NT there are several different words used for power. What the Bible says about power may be subsumed under four headings: (1) the unlimited power of God; (2) the limited power God gives to his creatures; (3) the power of God seen in Jesus Christ; (4) the power of God (by the Holy Spirit) in the lives of his people.

The Unlimited Power of God. God is almighty and all other power is derived from him and subject to him. Much that the Bible says is summed up in the words of 1 Chronicles 29:11–12 addressed to God in praise: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord … thou rulest over all. In thy hand are power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” Using human terms the OT often speaks of God’s “mighty hand” and his “outstretched arm,” both being used for the power of God in action (Ex 6:6; 7:4; Ps 44:2, 3). His power is seen in creation (Ps 65:6; Is 40:26; Jer 10:12; 27:5), in his rule over the world (2 Chr 20:6), in his acts of salvation and judgment (Ex 15:6; Dt 26:8) and in all that he does for his people (Ps 111:6). The NT as well as the OT speaks of the mighty power of God. Ephesians 1:19 speaks of “the immeasurable greatness of his power” and the words of Jesus in Matthew 26:64 show that the word could be substituted for the very name of God when he said that the Son of man would be seen “seated at the right hand of Power.”

The Limited Power God Gives to His Creatures. Animals have power, as is particularly evident in the wild ox, the horse, and the lion (Jb 39:11, 19; Prv 30:30). There is power in wind and storm, thunder and lightning. Power is given to men: physical strength (Jgs 16:5, 6), power to fight (Jgs 6:12), and the power to do good and the power to do harm (Gn 31:29; Prv 3:27; Mi 2:1). Rulers have God-given power and authority (Rom 13:1). The Bible also speaks of the power of angels (2 Pt 2:11) and of spiritual beings known as “principalities and powers.” Certain powers are given to Satan (see Jb 1:6–12; 2:1–6). Sin, evil, and death are allowed to have some power over men (Hos 13:14; Lk 22:53; Rom 3:9). All of these, however, have only limited power and God is able to give his people strength to conquer all these powers when arrayed against them. He can save them from the power of animals (Dn 6:27; Lk 10:19) and from the power of men over them. To Pilate Jesus said, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (Jn 19:11). He is able to deliver men from the power of sin and death, from Satan and from all the spiritual forces of evil (2 Cor 10:4; Eph 6:10–18). The “ruler of this world” could ultimately have no power over Christ (Jn 14:30) and so cannot have power over those who rely on him.

The Power of God Seen in Jesus Christ. The Gospels bear frequent witness to the power of Christ and in the preaching in the Acts of the Apostles reference is made similarly to this. Power was shown in his miracles (Mt 11:20; Acts 2:22), in his work of healing and exorcism (Lk 4:36; 5:17; 6:19; Acts 10:38). Power is shown supremely in his resurrection. Jesus speaks of his power to give up his life and power to take it again (Jn 10:18), but the NT speaks most frequently of the power of God the Father shown in the raising of his Son from the dead (Rom 1:4; Eph 1:19, 20). In the end he will be seen coming “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt 24:30). With regard to his human life on earth, however, it may be noted in the light of what follows that he lived and did his mighty works in the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:14; Acts 10:38).

The Power of God in the Lives of His People. In the OT it is often said that by the power of God the weak are made strong. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Is 40:29) so that they “go from strength to strength” (Ps 84:7; see also Ps 68:35; 138:3). We read in particular of his power being given to prophets (Mi 3:8) and kings (1 Sm 2:10; Ps 21:1) and it is said that in an outstanding way power will be given to the Messiah (Is 9:6; 11:2; Mi 5:4), but to all God’s people power is offered that they may live for him and serve him (Is 49:5). When we turn to the NT we read of the gospel itself as “the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16). “To all who received” Jesus Christ “who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). In that life as children of God power is received from the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:8), inner strength to live in his service (Eph 3:16), power to be his witnesses (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8), power to endure suffering (2 Tm 1:8), power that enables for ministry (Eph 3:7), power in the face of weakness (2 Cor 12:9), power through prayer (Jas 5:16), and power to be kept from evil (1 Pt 1:5). Those who do great things in the service of Christ do not do them in their own strength (Acts 3:12); he sent out his disciples confident only in the assurance that all things are under his authority and that they would have the power of his unfailing presence with them (Mt 28:18–20).

Weakness. While the Gospels often use the word “weakness” to describe the many illnesses Jesus healed, the concept of weakness is seldom used in a physical sense in Scripture. In fact, the incarnational theology of the Gospels sets forth the most important spiritual principle. The “infleshing” of the Word means that God’s power is most preeminently evidenced in human weakness (1 Cor. 1:25; 2 Cor. 13:4; Heb. 5:2).

The paralleling of divine empowerment and human suffering in the life of Christ commences with his birth and continues through to the cross and the resurrection. Indeed, the cross and resurrection encapsulate the paradox of God’s power being evidenced in the midst of human suffering and weakness. Yet the realization of this paradox in the life of Jesus fulfills the Suffering Servant motif of Isaiah and forms the basis of the atonement (Isa. 52:13–53:12; Heb. 4:15).

For Paul the principle of strength in weakness serves as the paradigm for life and ministry. Humankind is weak by nature. Yet weakness is the very point at which God reveals his power and grace (1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Cor. 12:9). Human weakness is not a liability only because it makes room for the power of God (2 Cor. 12:10). Weakness facilitates dependence on God, cultivates the appropriation of grace, and ascribes all glory and credit to God (2 Cor. 12:7–12). For these reasons Paul boasts of his weakness and views it as a sign of true apostleship (2 Cor. 11:30).

The spiritual union between the believer and Christ permits us to experience not only the weakness and the suffering of the cross, but also the power and glory of the resurrection (Rom. 6:1–5; 2 Cor. 13:4).

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